(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Abrams on January 9th 2018
Genres: Death & Dying, Friendship, Love & Romance, Social Themes, Young Adult
The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.
Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.
I expected that I would like this book, as I’ve completely enjoyed Allen’s other books, but I was surprised by how hard it was for me to put it down. In fact, I read this from beginning to end in one night because I found myself completely invested in Spencer and Hope’s stories.
The story begins at age 13 when Hope moves in to the house next door to Spencer. Spencer is immediately drawn to the white haired girl who doesn’t know how weird everyone thinks he is… yet.
They bond immediately over tree climbing, bike riding and planning world travels, and not once does Hope tease him about his tics caused by Tourette Syndrome.
Things change though and as Hope and Spencer get older, their friendship evolves in ways that no one could predict.
I love that parts of this story were told in a bit of a different way… Allen uses letters and chat messages for Hope’s point of view and I thought it was a unique way to share a different point of view. That said, I still loved being in Spencer’s head for most of this story. Just the evolution of his character from page to page was just wonderful. And I loved his taxonomies! It was such a fun way to get inside his head and learn a bit more about how he was viewing things.
I have to say that I really loved the way that Allen addresses Spencer’s Tourette’s Syndrome. It was at times hard to see how he had to really struggle to get people to see past it and see the real him… the boy who was an amazing friend, an excellent athlete and a capable person. Allen doesn’t make the story about the Tourette’s though… it’s just a part of who he is and I loved that there were people who could look deep enough to see it.
This book runs the gamut of emotions … there is tragedy, broken friendships, broken hearts, and fights… but there is also new relationships, love, and reconciliation. Their lives are messy and complex and Spencer finds that he can’t always categorize and break down his life into easy to understand taxonomies.
If you’re enjoy coming of age stories that address the complexity of real life I highly recommend checking this title out.
Thank you to Amulet Books for an early copy in exchange for my honest thoughts!